The anatomy of a viral Facebook post

A picture of a giant mug of root beer went viral on Facebook last month. Here’s why—as well as dos and don’ts for recreating the magic.

Last month, a giant mug of root beer went viral on Facebook, giving one Facebook page its 15 minutes of fame.

It was a picture on the Visit Fallon page of an old Bob’s Root Beer sign—from a restaurant in Fallon, Nev., that closed seven years ago. More than 20,000 people saw the post, from a page that (originally) had a little over 650 “likes.”

So what happened? Why did it work? One word: nostalgia.

What response did it get?

At the time of the post, the Visit Fallon page had a little more than 650 fans, with a pretty decent response rate from those fans. After the Bob’s image was posted, 1,244 people “liked” it, 105 people shared it, and 161 people commented on it.

It went viral, and more than 21,000 people saw the post. “Likes” on the page increased by 15 percent. These numbers continue to increase as the post continues to surface on new pages and walls.

General comments such as, “I miss this place,” and, “They had the best root beer floats,” were common. A majority of the comments were people reminiscing about times they spent at Bob’s Root Beer.

It’s the type of viral post we all want to make in social media—the type that does all the work for us when it comes to increasing exposure and interactions. It was successful because it reached the audience at a level they could relate to and emotionally connect with.

Why did it work?

When nostalgic moments are implemented in a plan, you get a response from your audience that’s stronger than any other—an emotional response. Everybody enjoys reminiscing, whether you’re old enough to remember when TV shows were black-and-white, or if you’re young enough to remember your obsession with *NSYNC.

You take them back to simpler times—times before iPhones and DVRs and the ever-changing Facebook. We live in such a fast-paced world now, always looking for the next best thing. Sometimes we forget that maybe the “best things” have already been had.

So what happens now?

Run with it. Start a nostalgic social media campaign. You can link moments of the past to current times. Get creative with it. You’ve got a new following you need to keep entertained so they don’t run off.

Here are a few dos and don’ts if you want to try this route for your campaign:


Relate to the audience. Don’t start reminiscing about *NSYNC if your demographic grew up in the 1970s. That won’t help.

Be creative. It depends on what kind of business you have, but there are many different ways you can relate past moments to today.

Ask questions about that certain moment, or event, or period of time to gain interaction.

Be funny. Have fun with it. Humor will always win. Your audience will remember something that makes them smile.

Listen, listen, listen. Chances are, the audience will start bringing up other things they remember and like to reminisce about, and you can run with those. They’ll tell you what they want to see; all you have to do is listen.


Get too serious. No religious or political posts, nor anything that could be offensive in any way.

Just sit there and watch it unfold. Be involved. Take notes. Respond to comments. It’s called “social” media for a reason.

Taking this route solidifies a place in their heart. They’ll remember you the next time they need you. If you increase the interaction, you increase the amount of people who have the potential to see your posts. You can throw in a few more ads and sales here and there and still keep them entertained.

Win their hearts and win their trust, and that will cement your brand.

Amanda Shepherd is social media coordinator at The Abbi Agency. A version of this story first appeared on the agency’s blog.

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